HHS ‘roadmap’ aims to tackle nation’s mental health crisis

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Diving brief:

  • HHS published an information note detailing his “Behavioral Health Integration Roadmapintended to better integrate mental health and addictions care into the broader health care system. The roadmap includes feedback that HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra received from patients and providers during a recent tour national.
  • The plan would coordinate behavioral health care with social services and early childhood systems, with a focus on improving equitable access. The roadmap initiatives will be advanced alongside other ongoing efforts to address the country’s mental health crisis, including the agency’s overdose prevention strategy and the new crisis 988, said HHS.
  • The HHS roadmap builds on President Joe Biden’s plan to strengthen behavioral health care that includes building system capacity, connecting Americans to care by leveraging health funding agreements, and investing in health promotion, prevention and recovery efforts.

Overview of the dive:

Biden identified the worsening mental health crisis in the country as a national priority during his State of the Union address this year. Nearly 53 million Americans in 2020 were affected by mental illness, and substance use disorders affected 15% of American adults, according to HHS.

The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the crisis, with an increased rate of overdose deaths and an increase in self-reported symptoms of anxiety, HHS said. Yet the use of mental health and addictions services fell sharply at the start of the pandemic and was slower to rebound than other types of health care, the report said.

The roadmap prioritizes the coordinated integration of behavioral care into broader health and social systems. The strategy aims to include behavioral health services not only in primary care settings, but in specialty areas such as OB/GYN care and in early childhood and education settings.

To build system capacity, HHS said it has identified opportunities to build a more diverse workforce ready to practice in integrated settings. Examples of new infrastructure investments to support behavioral health integration include the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Minority Bursary Program and Health Resources’ $155 million initiative. and Services Administration to fund primary care medicine residency programs that include psychiatry residents.

HHS said it has identified opportunities to make behavioral health services more affordable for Medicare and Medicaid recipients, noting that inability to pay for care was the most commonly cited reason patients do not receive services. mental health in a 2020 survey.

The department is also working to expand outreach efforts targeting high-risk populations and to integrate prevention programs into community settings such as schools, where more children can be reached.

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